Malawi suffers cholera, climate double tragedy


Cholera outbreak in Malawi. File photo

from MAVHUTO BANDA in Lilongwe, Malawi
Malawi Bureau
LILONGWE, (CAJ News) – ALREADY battling its worst cholera outbreak in two decades, Malawi now has the extra burden of inclement weather that has claimed dozens of lives.

At least 62 people have died during stormy weather since the beginning of the rainy season.

Of those, four have died over the past few days and three are missing. This after widespread floods caused by heavy rainfall that affected particularly the Blantyre city in the Southern region, surrounding areas and 28 councils.

Since the (November) 2022/2023 rainy season, the Department of Disaster Management Affairs has also confirmed 185 injured people and more than 94 000 affected people across the country.

The number of casualties has exceeded the 60 people killed when Cyclone Idai struck Malawi in 2019.

Idai was the most fatal tropical cyclone in the South-West Indian Ocean and second-deadliest tropical cyclone recorded in the Southern Hemisphere.

Malawi, the Southern African country of 20 million people, is in the throes of a climate crisis that is triggering more erratic and extreme weather.

Flooding could worsen the cholera crisis.

Earlier this week, the reported 42 427 cumulative confirmed cases and 1 384 deaths from the water bourne disease. This exceeds the 968 deaths from 33 546 cases in 2001/2002.

About 600 new cases continue to be reported daily.

Since the beginning of February only, the country has recorded 7 000 new cases including 239 deaths, mainly in most populated areas such as the capital Lilongwe and Blantyre, the finance and commerce hub.

Initially, cholera was limited to the southern parts of the country.

It has now spread throughout Malawi across all 29 health districts putting at risk over 10 million people, including more than 5 million children.

This week, President Lazarus Chakwera launched the national Tithetse kolera (End Cholera) campaign to curb the outbreak. It was launched in Mgona, one of the capital’s cholera hotspots.

“The Tithetse Cholera campaign will upgrade efforts by all stakeholders in eradicating the endemic,” Chakwera assured.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) supports the government’s efforts to contain the outbreak.

“We will continue to work with partners to implement the strategies that have been outlined in the End Cholera campaign,” said Dr Neema Rusibamayila Kimambo, WHO Representative in Malawi.

WHO has deployed 40 international experts to provide emergency support to national health authorities in strengthening disease surveillance, prevention and treatment measures, community engagement and multi-sectoral coordination to improve sanitation and provide safe water.

The organisation is also supporting health authorities to mobilise and deploy 450 health workers for case management.

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world with over half of the population living below the poverty line and one-fifth in extreme poverty.

– CAJ News

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